EDWARDSVILLE – LaJarvia Brown of Alton High started this girls’ track season the way she finished the 2014 one – as a classy champion.
The high-flying junior won three events Saturday to guide the Redbirds to a second-place finish in the Southwestern Illinois Relays at the Edwardsville High Winston Brown Track and Field Complex.
“It was a great day and I was pretty happy with it,” the 5-foot-3 Brown said of her dazzling performance.
Brown, the defending IHSA Class 3A champ in the triple jump, won that event with a meet-record leap of 39 feet, 2.5 inches at the season-opening relays. Mikeya Nicholson of Belleville East held the previous mark of 36-8 in 2006. Brown also won the long jump by going 18-2 and the 300-meter low hurdles in 45.38 seconds. In addition, she ran the anchor leg on the Redbirds’ 4x100-meter relay that placed fifth in 51.34.
“LaJarvia had a great day,” Alton coach Terry Mitchell said.
So did the Redbirds. They scored 68 points, second to O’Fallon, which tallied 126.5 points. Edwardsville logged 65 points to take third in the 14-team competition. Rock Island was fourth with 64.5 points and Rockwood, Mo. Summit came in fifth with 49 points.
“That’s the best we have ever done in this meet,” Mitchell said. “What I was most impressed with was the way we scored as a team. Everybody contributed and the girls are starting to believe in themselves.”
Freshman Katie Mans made a grand debut by going 5-2 to take first place in the high jump and give Alton four individual victories.
“Katie’s excited because it’s her first varsity victory,” Mitchell said of Mans, the IESA winner as an eighth-grader last year.
Teammate Jewel Wagner, a junior, threw the shot 36-3 and snagged second place behind O’Fallon’s Jasmine Spearman, the winner at 36-4. Alexis James, fifth in the discus and Chayvon Buckingham, sixth in the shot, also spurred the Birds.
Mitchell decided to put Brown in the low hurdles instead of having her run the 100-meters or 200-meters. He likely will keep her there.
“We talked about it and LaJarvia wanted to run the hurdles,” Mitchell said. “She’s fine with it.”
Brown added, “I like the idea because I have more room to stride in the hurdles.”
The Redbirds will run again Friday in the Belleville West Invite that begins at 11 a.m.
Alton’s guys scored 37 points to finish seventh in the 10-team boys’ action. Sophomore Tony Dobbins, fourth in the long jump at 18-9.5, junior Zach Llewellyn, fourth in the shot at 46-2.5, and the 4x200-meter relay squad, fourth in 1:35.01, paced the Birds. They also registered a fifth in the 4x800-meter relay at 9:17.91 and were fifth in the distance medley at 11:58.31.
“We’re young, with mostly freshmen and sophomores, but the kids are working hard to get better,” AHS coach Eric Dickerson said. He’s also the new Redbirds’ football coach and aiming to get gridders involved in track and field.
Sprinters Larry Calvin and Justus Pedrero, both seniors, could lead the Redbirds. Sophomore distance runners Arie Macias and Evan Rathgeb, plus freshman Kiondray Samelton, are among others to watch.
“Our goals are to keep improving and make progress each week,” Dickerson said. The Birds play host to the seven-team Alton Relays on Friday. It’s scheduled to start at 4 p.m. on Wigger Track inside Public School Stadium.
Edwardsville’s boys scored 131 points to win the Southwestern Relays, while O’Fallon finished a close second with 115 points. Collinsville placed third with 86 points, followed by Rockwood, Mo. Summit with 64.5 points and Belleville West with 56.5 points.
“Our guys performed well and we were pretty solid across the board,” Edwardsville coach Chad Lakatos said. “Our goal is to win it all this season. Maybe this is our magic year.”
The Tigers finished second to Elmhurst York by four points (40-36) in last year’s Class 3A finals. Edwardsville also was state runner-up in 2012.
Granite City's girls scored 21 points and the boys had six points at EHS. Catherine Jakich led the girls by winning the discus with a throw of 119-1. She also was fifth in the shot at 35-10. And the Warriors' 4x800-meter relay team placed sixth. They will join Alton on Friday in the Belleville West Invite.
Vincent Clark powered the Granite City guys. He took third in the shot with a throw of 46-6. The Warriors resume competition Friday in the O'Fallon relays. Action gets going at noon.